Don Thames, Rancho Murieta Country Club's golf pro, is filing occasional pieces about the experience of playing in the British Senior Open, which begins Thursday. Photos are by Carole Thames.
By Don Thames, Rancho Murieta Country Club golf pro
Bridgend, Wales – Royal Porthcawl is a beast. Yesterday we played our first practice round and found perhaps three breather holes, for lack of a better phrase. The rest were long, with most seeming to play into strong winds. I hit several four- and two-iron approaches to par fours and one three metal into a four par converted from a five. Matters are further complicated by the fact that the fairways are lined with fairly thick rough of fescue, gorse and heather. I will endeavor to not visit these areas.
Every hole features more trouble for a player that errs into the pot bunkers. These are truly one shot penalties, as one must pitch out with a lofted wedge. In some cases the unlucky lad will have to play backwards should the ball rest too close to the forward face. The greens are huge, every one larger than our own 15th, full of bumps, undulations and slope. Most slant off to the side designed to guide slightly off-line shots into pot bunkers surrounding the greens. I have been advised by several lads to avoid the bunkers at all costs. Should one find his ball close to the face, he is doomed.
The complex for the event is massive, complete with player registration, player dining, caddie headquarters, medical area, physio room, merchandise tent (yes, Carole found that!) and more. The food there, contrary to our hamburger experiences, is exquisite. Today we will visit the golf club vendors on the driving range and take advantage of the complimentary golf equipment passed out to the players like candy. The driving range is the largest I have ever seen. The tee must be 175 yards from side to side and the field itself seems to be the size of Carmel Bay.
Don Thames and Randy Haag
We met Scott McCarron yesterday after he played in the Rolex Pro-Am. He seemed rather surprised to see us. When I asked him about how to play the golf course he said, “Hit it long and straight.” I was somewhat underwhelmed by these words of wisdom but nevertheless happy to see my old mate from RMCC.
We played the practice round with another old mate of mine, Randy Haag. Randy has played in four Opens and three U.S. Opens as a senior. Randy qualified by rolling in a 30-foot curler for par at Pyle and Kenfig. He writes a golf blog and did much video work while we played. If interested, you could probably look up his blog and see more about his experiences here. That’s all for now, as we are headed out to play nine holes and then rest up for the opening round.
Unfortunately, as you might imagine, it's raining at the moment. But that, of course, is part of the challenge.
Don and Carole
Don and Carole Thames